Migration Policy Institute
Stranded Migrants: A New Challenge for the International Community
William Lacy Swing, Director General, International Organization for Migration
Sam Worthington, President & CEO, InterAction
Kathleen Newland, MPI Director, Migration and Development Program
Wars, insurrections, natural disasters and other disruptions can leave migrants in the affected countries unable to sustain themselves. They may be stranded in the midst of a crisis or marooned in a neighboring country, unable to reach their home countries and with no opportunity to move on to another. Often rendered destitute in the course of a crisis, their home countries are rarely able to rescue them. The most prominent case of stranded migrants recently unfolded in Libya as civil war engulfed the country in 2011, disrupting the livelihoods that had drawn migrants to Libya and sending them fleeing across the borders. Existing legal frameworks, institutional arrangements, and financial resources have proved inadequate to the task of assisting stranded migrants when their numbers rise above mere dozens. The International Organizations for Migration is often asked to assist stranded migrants, despite constraints in terms of resources, legal frameworks, and institutional arrangements. The Libyan crisis, which displaced nearly 800,000 migrant workers, challenged IOM to look for innovative solutions in partnership with other actors – in particular the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR.
With global mobility on the rise, the international community is finally grappling with the challenge of stranded migrants, which is one of the main agenda items for the High-level Dialogue on Migration and Development in the UN General Assembly in October 2013. Director General Swing reflects on IOM’s long experience with stranded migrants and the ways in which it is preparing proactively to address their needs. He explains IOM’s approaches in the context of the High-level Dialogue and the opportunity it presents for states to come together to address the new migration challenges of the 21st century.